There are no regulations in the UK on becoming a psychotherapist. Anybody can declare themselves a psychotherapist and open their own practice. However, the majority of psychotherapists are also psychiatrists or psychologists who are trained in a specific psychotherapy technique as well as their initial qualification.
Some practitioners are BACP accredited (British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy) which means they have undertaken up to 450 hours of supervised practice, or 200 hours training plus 250 hours of practice. Others may have a UKCP (UK Council for Psychotherapy) qualification, which means they have had at least four years of training and adhere to a strict ethical code.
When might you see a psychotherapist?
The number of fields in which a psychotherapist intervenes is very large. According to the UK Council for Psychotherapy, a psychotherapist treats “a wide range of emotional and mental difficulties”. The NHS describes psychotherapy as “a way of helping people to overcome stress, emotional problems, relationship problems or troublesome habits.” Basically, a psychotherapist helps you to confront your emotional, mental or behavioural problems: shyness, complexes, relationship break-downs, phobias, traumas, grief, etc. You can consult a psychotherapist whether it be short or long term, for a few sessions or for a few years.
Bioenergy, Gestalt therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), psychodrama, psychoanalytic psychotherapy...There are many psychotherapy techniques, the best known being psychoanalysis. Practitioners use one of these methods depending on their own approach or modality, to help you understand and resolve your problems. Practitioners may treat your symptoms by working on your behaviour using exercises, or even guide you in the exploration of your unconscious as in psychoanalysis. Sessions may take place in a group, in a seminar, face to face, sitting down or lying down. Psychotherapists aren't necessarily medical doctors and are unable to prescribe medication in their capacity as a psychotherapist.
The cost of psychotherapy depends on the practitioner but you can expect to pay £30 to £45 per session. It is sometimes available on the NHS but a referral letter is required from your GP.
If you go private, make sure the practitioner is BACP or UKCP accredited as this guarantees that they have a minimum amount of standard training.